The innovative partnership between WOU (Wawasan Open University) and global online learning platform, Coursera, is a key enabler propelling WOU towards the next level of academic excellence.

Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor, Professor Dr Lily Chan, underscored this significance as she discussed WOU’s ongoing collaboration with Coursera, which has thrived over the past three years. She was speaking to Bibin Shivas, Coursera’s Director of Customer Success for Asia-Pacific, at the recent CampusTalks webinar broadcasted live on 29 May 2024.

According to Prof Chan, WOU’s strategy to integrate Coursera with a new learning management platform signified a revolutionary digital transformation for the University. The approach improved upon the University’s previous method of course delivery, replacing static PDF and Word documents with dynamic learning materials, she explained.

“For me, it’s a game changer to allow students access to global content, to see what other students are studying, and to let them feel proud studying materials from institutions like the University of Illinois and Duke University,” she added.

WOU integrates Coursera content into selected courses, with up to 50% integration for some courses. This partnership gives WOU access to top content from industry leaders like IBM, Google, and Meta, helping students upskill and reskill, and keeps the curricula aligned with evolving industry trends. The meticulous process entails blending external courses with WOU’s materials to meet the stringent quality standards set by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA).

“There’s no limit to where you can get content. It’s how you fit that content and delivery methods within the regulatory framework established by the Ministry of Higher Education,” Prof Chan added.

These integrations are currently adopted by WOU’s School of Technology and Engineering Science (STE) and School of Digital Technology (DiGiT) for its postgraduate programmes on system design engineering, smart manufacturing, and data science. Programme modules feature specialised courses from top institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, University of Colorado Boulder, Technical University of Munich, and University of California San Diego, to name a few.

It’s a game changer to allow students access to global content, says Prof Chan.

To enhance their employability, students have the opportunity to acquire professional credentials such as the IBM Machine Learning Professional Certificate and Google Data Analytics Professional Certificate upon completion of selected modules.

Prof Chan added that as one of Coursera’s early adopters in Malaysia, WOU’s commitment to nurture industry-ready students has garnered positive feedback from employers prioritising a skills-first approach in their hiring practices.

“Not only will they have a degree from WOU, but they will also acquire additional industry micro-credentials from IBM, Google, and Meta along the way.”

The conversation also touched on WOU’s initiative in introducing micro-credentials to industries. Anticipating stackable credentials as a future trend, Prof Chan explained that WOU currently allows unbundling of degree programmes into packaged content to train the workforce in specific job roles. She illustrated the future of manufacturing, where manual work will gradually be replaced by automation.

“The technicians of tomorrow will need to be able to operate a dashboard on automated or robotics equipment,” she said.

Leveraging its reputation for curating high-quality content, WOU has engaged in industry collaborations to repackage courses offering credit-bearing micro-credentials. Through flexible and adaptable pathways provided by WOU, students can accumulate these credentials to eventually progress towards a degree at their own pace.

From the Coursera perspective, Shivas highlighted the power of Generative AI (Gen AI) to enhance the learning experience, either through assessments or personalised learning with immediate feedback. He elaborated on the capabilities of the AI-powered Course Builder tool, which WOU currently subscribes to, in empowering academics to effectively generate lesson plans in a shorter duration. “They can invest more time refining their content to align with their course objectives,” Shivas said, adding that academics can also use the tool to deliver high integrity and high credibility assessments.

Shivas discusses the capabilities of Coursera’s AI-powered Course Builder tool.

Recognising the value of integrating content to enhance pedagogical methods and produce work-ready graduates, Prof Chan commented, “Integrating external resources enriches the content. When you incorporate content from another university, you see their approach and you learn from it.”

In terms of driving student engagement, she emphasised the importance of a robust learning management system (LMS) that functions as a versatile communication tool and personal assistant to guide students on their academic journey.

Looking ahead, Prof Chan envisions the LMS to evolve into a collaborative platform where local and international students can ‘form chat groups and study together’.

Her immediate priority for WOU is to improve learning outcomes, boost student engagement, and promote re-enrolment by optimising the LMS through a seamless integration with Coursera.